Thoughts on I Dwell in Possibility

Category: ModPoPenn

So, I’m totally excited to begin the Modern and Contemporary American Poetry class from the University of Pennsylvania Kelly Writers House through Coursera.

We all have our lenses

Surely it is the fate of writers and poets to have their writings interpreted in way they never intended. Especially after they die and all bets are off as it were. Whatever Emily Dickinson had to say on any matter has been said and we hobbyests are now free to draw our conclusions out of the air and run them through that Great Rationalizer in our heads. Right or wrong, I can’t help but do this when I read I Dwell in Possibility.

There is much discussion about whether this is a meta-poem; a poem about poetry and it surely is, but the more often I read it, the more I wonder if the “I” who is speaking is not, at least at the very moment of poetic conception, Creativity herself. She does indeed dwell in Possibility and would consider it “fairer than Prose” especially if one were willing to consider the word “prose” as a poetically viable stand-in for the more technically inclusive “the arts of language”.

When Creativity is speaking, her fair Visitors would be artists, mathematicians, writers, actors, scientists and engineers. In short, anyone for whom The Spark is a non-negotiable. From Creativity’s point of view, these eager visitors in all their chaotic numbers must represent a gathering Paradise.

Of course, this doesn’t fit very neatly with the common wisdom that Emily Dickinson was an elitist. Are you willing to consider working Creatives to be a type elite? I’m not really. I believe Creativity touches us all in the form of accident and coincidence and is behooves me to acknowledge that the Poet was probably not writing from this perspective. My lens blurs her intention.

I am pleased with the chance to immerse myself deeply in poetry. To feel my tired Rationalizer unclench it’s hold on What It Knows and begin to flex and beat to the rhythms of the questions.

Book Review - the Wettest County in the World

Category: Book Reviews

The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True StoryThe Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story by Matt Bondurant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the story about the Bondurant brothers. It was exciting and enlightening. Could have done without the story about Sherwood Anderson and was sorely confused by the skipping around in a short 5yr period. I think there was not enough differentiation between the one story and the other. Maybe a longer time span - a [different] journalist comes twenty, thirty, fourty years later - so the setting could be different enough to have helped me to keep my bearings, or maybe a simple chronological storyline would have done the trick. Or simply give the Sherwood Anderson story a book of it’s own…

In any case, I liked it so much that you bet I’ll be reading Matt Bondurant again one of these days.

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Book Review - 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself - Change Your Life Forever

Category: Book Reviews

100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book a great deal. It offers a hundred short chapters - blog post length - each with a different perspective, trick or tip for motivating myself to stop talking and get moving. Seems like this sort of a kick in the shins book is just what we all need from time to time.

At my house, non-fiction, motivational books usually wind up in the trash because they get on my nerves or on my “Friends in Need” books shelf where I can and do return to them just as I do my friends. I know they were there for me in the past and will probably be just the ticket to remind me what I need to know this time too.

100 Ways to Motivate Yourself made it to my Friends in Need bookshelf right away.

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Book Review - Deep Dish

Category: Book Reviews

Deep DishDeep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, it’s chicklit and ahem, I don’t read chicklit. But my mother left it behind the last time she visited and said something like: Read this, it will do you good. She was right. Deep Dish kept me turning the pages and let’s be honest, that’s where it’s at when we are reading, isn’t it? The story moved quickly, the chapters were short. The story was predictable, except for when it wasn’t. The dialog was pretty snappy and the characters were every bit as real as any cartoon and you gotta love a dog named Moonpie. Who cares about “real” characters? I still stayed up until 2:00 in the morning. Twice.

I hope Mary Kay Andrews makes a bundle of money on her fun book. The entertainment value was high, higher than say, Spiderman > 2 for instance. Yep. So, I guess “I don’t read chicklit” – except for when I do.

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The Beach Is a Road

Category: My Poetry

The beach is a road
so my car is a boat
and my boat has a sail
and it fills in the wind
and it speaks of my body

it speaks only in code
it has plenty to teach

so I loosen the ties
and catch up the main
take the tiller in hand
and testing the wind
reach away from the sand

the further I go now
the farther I am

my worries seem to follow
my thoughts left on land

sheeting in I point higher
parallel to the shore
stretching and leaning
my length overboard
my rudder it vibrates
and hums out a song

Now, I’m part of the circuit
Now, the struggle is gone.

Thanks, Sean for the super writing prompt. I enjoyed myself thoroughly!

Tragedy and Revelation

Category: This is My Life

Sure ‘nuff that fearful thing I’ve dreaded since the moment I sat down in the optometrist’s chair has come to pass. I was able to stave it off for nearly three years. (Three years? Already? Are you serious?) Then, two days ago the chain that I use to hang my reading glasses about my neck, even though I know these chains are clearly categorized with Bill Cosby’s “idiot mittens”, you know that little rubber piece that goes around the ear piece on your glasses, well, it broke, and instead of waiting outside the store where I bought it at ten minutes to opening yesterday morning to get it repaired, I wrote for awhile, got dressed, did my morning thing, picked up our apartment, chased dirty dishes, and set my glasses down. Somewhere.

I’ve checked the refrigerator, I’ve checked inside the coffee canister, both my desks, under the sofa, under my pillow, the ironing board, the bathtub, the laundry basket and all my purses even though they were a long shot. I checked the balcony, the table by the grill, the kitchen table, the ironing board again because I thought for sure I had seen them there earlier, but they weren’t so I checked my desks too, both of them. Again.

Distraution? Distraughtness? Distraughtability? Distraughtification? Are those words? They should be, because that is exactly what set in the minute I realized that I have no idea where those naughty critters might be. I chased around our apartment all-in-all seven times yesterday afternoon and maybe it’s not huge, I still needed a nap, being as how it is one of the remaining things a girl can do without her reading glasses.

I can see alright, even if everything within reading distance is a bit blurry and I have to guess at some of the words and I’m right in the middle of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which as you might know is, at least page wise, a sassy answer to Infinite Jest. Yes, now that you ask, I do still read books in their quaint form. Yes, I know I wouldn’t have to worry about my glasses if I would join the twenty-first century and read them digitally. I’m sure I would just lauhvve it, darlink, yes of course I would but, no, I don’t intend to buy a kindle just because I can’t find my damn glasses. Thank you for asking.


I can now confirm that all my words live in the tip of my nose, because without my glasses applying a light pressure there I’ll never write again. Excluding this post, of course.

I’m really having a devil of a time.

This is a full-scale whale fail.

sniff. sniff.

An Unexpected Encouragement

Category: Unexpected Encouragement

There is a man who hangs out at the café/bar where my writers group meets. I don’t know very much about him at all. I know he reads and nurses a beer from his usual stool at the bar, while we writers, at our usual table, group and chatter about our lives, our loves and our precious pastime.

Last week, everyone else went home early and I was left with an hour of peace and quiet to finish my Trollinger and think up a #writersprompt or two. On a self-dare 1 I gathered my courage and asked the gentleman at the bar what he was reading. He was friendly and we small-talked about “Transgression: A Novel of Love and War”, the setting of the story, that he found it tense, exciting, that I would order it in English and what was the author’s name again? James W. Nichol.

I began to relax. A casual exchange of smiles or weather-based one-liners is easy for me but engaging in a meaningful conversation, (the only kind of conversation I really want to have) with a person I don’t know is, well, is damned scary. And just then, just as I discovered I could breathe again, with a gentle smile and what I interpreted to be an expression of honest interest he asked me: “So, how’s your novel going?”

Yes folks, yes, that’s me you see sitting there behind my usual table, with a half a glass of wine in my brain, frozen at the wrong end of a question and totally unable to formulate the first senseful sentence. Not even a senseful string of words freed from any requirement regarding the rules of sentence. No one (I didn’t know well) had ever asked me that question. 2

I think I blushed, I know I blathered around in my vocabulary, spitting out words one after the other, for a minute or two while his face maintained it’s original kind expression; the one that suggested we were talking about something of real value. I don’t remember what I said or how the the conversation ended but for the rest of the evening, until I fell asleep that night, the experience of that experience followed me around, pestering and poking at me. Trying to tell me something. What was it? 3

The next morning, when I woke up, I only wanted to work. To work, to work: sorting out characters and subplots, noting missing scenes. Spring cleaning strikes the Work In Progress folder, deletions were made, changes, additions too. I’ve been working all week and the progress is slow, but steady. It still feels different now than it did last week, still today, still somehow important. A casual bystander has done me a great favor.

Thank you, Martin. Thank you for asking.

1 A “self-dare” is when, lacking a challenger, you dare yourself to do something scary. Come on you do it too. You know you do.
2 Even people I do know well, after all these years, don’t ask The Question very often anymore.
3 I know. I should get out more often.

A Sobering Thought

Category: Thoughts from the Void

We want our loved ones to live as long as possible, but our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.

Our Unrealistic Views of Death Through a Doctor’s Eyes

In a pleasant fog of painkillers, just after my appendix took a long walk off a short pier, I lay in my hospital bed content to marvel at the peculiar brand of boredom that walks hospital halls and count the hours by the arrival of my neighbor’s breakfast, lunch, dinner and the new faces in the nursing staff. How lucky was I to have waltzed blithely over that line in the sand back there? These days nearly everyone makes the crossing safely and knows the line I’m talking about; the one that separates you from your past. It is the line that marks the day you would have died of “natural causes” without the advances of modern medicine.

It was dark still, or again, when I felt my body heave a sigh of relief. The troublemaker in the neighborhood had packed his bags and moved on to greener pastures in the medical trash bin. A few hours later I could feel my organs begin syncing in forgotten ways, coordinating, working-together, “Hey, would you look at all those dead germs?”, taking advantage of massive doses of antibiotics to clean house and tackle the necessary improvements list.

I checked out a couple of days later and left behind one used-up appendix, two kilograms fat, and any fear I might have harbored that this body is growing tired of living. I brought with me a deep gratitude for today. It is a day I might have missed.